Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday said meeting of State police chiefs, heads of anti-terrorism squads, Chief Secretaries and Home Secretaries had been called to allay the apprehensions of the State governments over the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
“I am confident that this meeting will find a way forward. My note to the Chief Ministers sent earlier is also self-explanatory,” Mr. Chidambaram said at his monthly press conference here.
Union Home Secretary R.K. Singh has invited the Chief Secretaries, Directors-General of Police and Home Commissioners/Secretaries to discuss the scope and functions of the NCTC here on March 9.
Asked if he would meet the Chief Ministers to resolve differences over the proposed counter-terror hub, the Minister said that it would depend on the meeting convened by the Home Secretary. “Before taking the next step, let us go through this meeting,” he added.
Under attack from non-Congress Chief Ministers who apprehend that the proposed NCTC would infringe on the powers and rights of the States, the Centre has put on hold the operationalisation of the counter-terror hub from March 1 and decided to hold discussions with the State governments.
In his letter to 10 Chief Ministers, Mr. Chidambaram had assured them that the “next steps” on NCTC would be taken only after the meeting of the top officials of the States.
Top Home Ministry officials are expected to allay the apprehensions. The States had said that empowering the NCTC with Section 43 (A) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act would infringe on their powers. This section confers on an officer power to search and arrest.
Mr. Chidambaram said that if the NCTC had to conduct counter-terrorism operations, it had to be given “minimum powers” to arrest.
No legal wrangle
“This power is only while conducting counter-terror operations or foiling designs of terrorists to launch an attack. Even after arresting a suspect, the operations division of the NCTC will have to, without unnecessary delay, hand him over to the nearest police station. If you agree to give counter-terror capability to the NCTC, then its operations division cannot rely upon others to conduct search and make arrest. There is no legal difficulty in doing this and this has also been examined by the Intelligence Bureau where the NCTC is proposed to be located,” he told journalists.
Mr. Chidambaram said the powers conferred under Section 43(A) must be read with the duty under Section 43 (B) of the Act to produce the person or article without unnecessary delay before the nearest police station (which will be under the State government), and the Station House Officer will take further action in accordance with the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
In his letter to the Chief Ministers, Mr. Chidambaram said these were “bare minimum powers” necessary when engaged in counter-terrorism operations.
In an attached note, the Minister said that a body mandated to deal with counter-terrorism must have, in certain circumstances, an operational capability which was true of all counter-terrorism bodies in the world.
Asked how long it would take to make the NCTC operational, Mr. Chidambaram said with a smile: “I am a patient man. I have been showing patience since November 2009. I am willing to be patient for some more time, as long as it is necessary.”
LeT module busting
Referring to the busting of a Lashkar-e-Taiba module in the Capital by the Delhi police and the Central agencies, he said it underscored the need for the NCTC.
Complimenting the police and intelligence agencies on smashing the module, Mr. Chidambaram said that suspected terrorists had planned to detonate one or more bombs at a crowded place in Delhi.